Rare handkerchief map of the United States, printed in full color

Engraved by G[eorge] W. Boynton / [Printed by Joseph Willard Tuttle], A MAP OF THE UNITED STATES, FROM THE LATEST SURVEYS. WITH THE HEIGHT OF MOUNTAINS And length of the PRINCIPAL RIVERS.  PATENT. Boston: [Tremont Print Company? Joseph Willard Tuttle?], 1841.
Engraved map printed in four colors on cloth, 24 ¾”h x 24 ¾”w at neat line plus margins. Color somewhat faded, minor foxing and staining. About very good.

A rare and decorative 1841 handkerchief map of the United States printed on pongee silk, one of only four early American cartographic textiles identified in Threads of History.

Tuttle’s map depicts the United States to 24 degrees west of Washington, including parts of the territory just west of the Missouri River and of the Republic of Texas. The cartographic prototype is unknown, though the map does bear some resemblance to Tanner’s 1829 map of the United States.  As a concession to the challenge of printing on linen Tuttle has simplified the geography to emphasize only the most important rivers and towns.

At the base are two interesting charts depicting the lengths and heights respectively of the nation’s major rivers and mountains.  The visual appeal of the image is greatly enhanced by the delicate foliate border and the full printed color.  This map was also issued in an uncolored variant printed in sepia, held for example in the Rumsey Collection.

The map appeared in a number of variants.  Some four-color examples bear the additional imprint “Printed and published by Joseph W. Tuttle & Company,” though in at least some cases the “& Company” is crossed out in ink. Tuttle was a Boston map engraver active in the second quarter of the 19thcentury, though Stauffer’s American Engravers mentions him only in the context of the partnership of Morse & Tuttle, established in the 1830s.  That partnership must have been dissolved by 1841, when this map was issued.

The map appeared in a number of variants.  Some four-color examples bear the additional imprint “Printed and published by Joseph W. Tuttle & Company,” though in at least some cases the “& Company” is crossed out in ink. There are also versions bearing the Tuttle imprint but printed in one color, either black (Threads of History, #153) or sepia (Rumsey #2955).

“Map printing in a style which we believe is entirely new”
The textile was advertised in the Boston Semi-Weekly Advertiser for May 26, 1841:

“SILK MAP. — We have just seen a specimen of Map Printing in a style which we believe is entirely new. It is a map of the United States printed on a handsome pongee silk, in the form of a pocket handkerchief, and it may be used at pleasure either for the ordinary purposes of that necessary implement, or for the sole purpose of reference for the accurate geographical information which it contains, or it may be made to serve both purposes at the same time. It is printed and published by Mr. Joseph W. Tuttle. The engraving is by Mr. George W. Boynton, from a new, and we believe accurate drawing made for the purpose, containing the usual details of a map of the size, with scales of the heights of mountains, length of rivers, &c. The lettering is bold and distinct, and the printing clear, and as we are told in durable colours. It is an article which seems likely to recommend itself, not only by its novelty, but by its convenience to extensive use. It is sold by the bale, piece or single, by Mr. William G. Eaton, in Kilby street.” (page 1)

The Boston Morning Post for May 25, 1841, commented,

“A man may now snuff up information. Mr Joseph W. Tuttle has invented a new way of printing on silk, by which he can give you as handsome and distinct a map on a pocket handkerchief as ever was impressed on parchment or paper. The color is clear black, and permanent; the map on silk looks, at a little distance, like a very neat and delicate ornamental figure.” (page 2)

Joseph W. Tuttle
Joseph Warren Tuttle (1814-1885) was a Boston-based mapmaker and engraver, in partnership with Hazen Morse as “Tuttle & Morse” from 1837-1846. They were joined by George Hazen Morse in 1843, who took over his father’s partnership in 1844, the firm continuing, with Tuttle withdrawing in 1858.

The combination of imprints on this map is very hard to explain. This is the only map with the imprint of “Joseph Tuttle & Co.” and the only reference to the “Tremont Print Company” found. It seems most likely that William G. Eaton, a dealer in silk goods in Boston, was the prime mover of publication and Tuttle simply facilitated that process, as an entity separate from “Morse & Tuttle”, perhaps forming the “Tremont Print Company” as a joint venture vehicle. He may simply have chosen to outsource (delegate) the engraving to George Washington Boynton (1809-1882), an important Boston jobbing map-engraver, perhaps as having the necessary engraving skills to perform the specialized heavier engraving work for a cloth map.

The map is often attributed to Joseph Willard Tuttle (1813-1888) but this man was a newspaper printer and publisher in Plattsburgh, New York, and a less convincing candidate.

Rumsey #2955 (sepia, Tuttle imprint).  Threads of History, #152 (with #153 being the Tuttle variant in black only).  As of March 2019 OCLC has other examples of our color-printed variant at #36187918 (Boston Public-Leventhal Map Center, Kentucky Historical Society, and Library of Congress) and 37651857 (Library of Congress again, but with slightly different dimensions).  The uncolored variant is listed at OCLC #953568550 (Stanford-Rumsey only).